According to OfCom, the UK’s communications regulator, more than 50% of 12 to 15 y.o. teenagers are active Instagram users. Smaller kids, 8 to 11 y.o., make up 43%. But how many of them really understand the terms of service that they sign when they join this social network? You can be sure that this is 0%.
The issue is that teenagers don’t understand that it is really necessary. The document is huge, more than 5,000 words to read, and teenagers have neither time no intention to do that.
Jenny Afia, who is a privacy law expert at Schillings, a UK-based law firm, created the new text for Instagram’s terms of service and made its language child-friendly.
Afia says that one-third of internet users are children, although the internet is not created for them. Moreover, according to that study, not only children find it difficult to understand Instagram’s terms of service. The same issues are experienced even by adult people with high education.
Afia thinks that if people know what they sign, they will require better terms. But how justified is this assumption? There are still many grown-up people who sign the same terms and don’t bother about them at all. Still Afia is optimistic: “They don’t know what is being done, so no one is saying can it be done differently.”
What should parents do?
Afia says that there are some laws in UK that allow parents to learn what information is gathered about their children by different organizations and with whom this info is shared. “But they don’t ask,” she says. “No one is asking and no one is holding them to account.”
Finally, the report gives 3 main recommendations.
First, a “digital citizenship” program should be created for children between 4 and 14. This program should be led by older children and to some extent by teachers. It would be focused on how to protect your rights when you go online and how to respect others. The main rights that should be taught are:
- the right to know who can access your private information and how they can use it
- the right for security and support
- the right to be informed
- the right to digital literacy, to understand the purpose of the data that you use
Secondly, the UK’s General Data Protection Regulation should be implemented, and the conditions should be written in such a form that kids can understand them.
Third, a new Children’s Digital Ombudsman should be created to help parents keep in touch with social media companies.
So, time will show whether these recommendations will be adopted by government and by parents. In practice it is very difficult to make people more conscious of their online data safety. However, there is still hope that things may get better, as many parents are already worried about their kid’s online privacy.
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